The objective of this study was to use a pressure plate to quantify the toe-heel load redistribution in the forelimbs of sound warmblood horses with normal shoes and shoes with a wide toe and narrow branches, used empirically in the treatment of superficial digital flexor tendon or suspensory ligament injuries. In a crossover-design study, six horses, randomly shod with normal shoes and shoes with a wide toe, were led over a dynamically calibrated pressure plate to record data from both forelimbs. There were no significant differences between both shoes in the toe-heel index of stance time, peak vertical force and vertical impulse. For the adapted shoe, the peak vertical pressure was slightly lower and was exerted slightly earlier in the stance phase, albeit not significantly. However, the significantly larger toe contact area of the adapted shoe resulted in a significantly lower total vertical pressure in the toe region. Hence, the pressure plate adequately visualised the individual loading of the toe and heel region, and clearly demonstrated the altered pressure distribution underneath the shoe with a wide toe. Although further research on a deformable surface is needed to confirm this hypothesis, the pressure redistribution from the toe to the heels could promote sinking of the heels in arena footing, thereby mimicking the biomechanical effects of a toe wedge and providing a rationale for its application in the treatment of SDFT or SL injuries. The pressure measuring equipment used in this study can offer to the clinician a diagnostic tool for the evaluation of the load distribution underneath the equine hoof and for the fine-tuning of corrective shoeing.
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